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California manufacturers deliver West Coast fashion

January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.23.17 PMWhen it comes to personal style—everything from the way people dress to the way they decorate their homes—more and more individuals seem to identify with the “West Coast” aesthetic, according to published reports. Flooring is no different, as many California-based mills’ latest designs feature fashion-forward choices reflecting this trend.

“The West Coast has earned a reputation for being at the forefront of carpet styling,” said Doug Jackson, vice president, sales and marketing, Tuftex, Shaw Floors’ premier carpet brand. “The mills here have taken the lead in creating popular designs, colors and new looks.”

The perception in industry circles is that West Coast mills are on the forefront of innovative design and fashionable color trends. Many popular neutral shades, as well as various blues, teals, oranges and coral hues that are currently trending in home décor, are found in their carpet patterns. Meanwhile, exotic colors and designs from California’s natural surroundings are represented in many flooring installations found in home interiors.

“Being on the West Coast enables a different perspective from the bulk of the industry, which opens up our world to endless possibilities for design,” noted Todd van der Kruik, vice president of design at Bentley Mills. “Unlike a city like New York, Los Angeles doesn’t really have a center. It expands in all directions until you reach the ocean, the mountains or the desert, and there’s something different happening in every part of it.”

While mills located in the East have a tendency to develop floor designs with more mass appeal, it is not uncommon for their Western counterparts to create fashionable patterns based on regional preferences and trends. “There are a lot of influences in carpet designs based on what you see in nature and outdoor living,” Jackson pointed out. “The weather here is not as seasonal as the East Coast.”

While the images of palm trees, sunshine and surfboards certainly do not sum up the diversity of the West Coast landscape, it does include a compelling picture of a colorful, relaxed lifestyle. Bentley—which claims to be one of the first mills to bring fashion to commercial flooring—is among the local carpet producers turning to its surroundings for inspiration on developing styles and colors.

“For the last two years we have been making our comeback, embracing our city and looking for inspiration with a renewed sense of connection and identity,” van der Kruik said. “We love telling those stories through our product. We look to the city to lead our color direction.”

One of the first product lines launched as the rebranded Bentley Mills was the Western Edge Collection, inspired by van der Kruik’s own cross-country move from Atlanta to Los Angeles. “The colors and textures I photographed as my family and I ‘road tripped’ our way to California became the motivation for the patterns and colors of the eventual product.”

As Bentley’s design philosophy evolved, so too did its product photography in order to reflect the stories the mill is trying to tell. “We now go to the movie studio prop houses to find the perfect pieces to help us relay our message and, hopefully, inspire our customers,” van der Kruik explained. “We are all artists here in the studio, so we know how important it is to feel inspired by your work, because we want to be inspired too.”

Case in point: One of Bentley’s carpet lines, the California Biennial Collection, artistically transforms inspiration found from Los Angeles’ contemporary museum scene into a high-design, modern-day flooring solution.

Delivering trends to interior design

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.23.32 PMWith its West Coast style, color and fashion, Tuftex has created its own segment in the marketplace, offering designs that bring color, warmth and fashion to peoples’ homes.

“We attribute our success to our customers,” Jackson said, “and have dedicated ourselves to providing excellence in quality, design, service and value.”

Tuftex believes its unique brand personality stands out from other carpet collections based on the mill’s West Coast influence. “I think part of our color scheme and designs are influenced by the surrounding environment where we are located,” Jackson explained. “We’re blessed in California to have great weather, plus a desert, ocean, mountains and an outdoor lifestyle.”

As part of an enhanced brand program in 2011, Tuftex revamped its logo to remain true to its Californian origins by incorporating two key colors—the warm beige of a sandy beach and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean—while a soft zigzag visual illustrates a wave washing up on shore.

Tuftex carpets are available in a wide array of trendy patterns and colors for consumers seeking something different. For instance, the Color Coordinates selling system—featuring a wide range of Stainmaster carpets representing constructions in the mid- to high-end price points—includes common solid or heathered colors in velvet, frieze, textures, loops and patterns. The mill classifies the consumer into eight lifestyles, each with roots in the company’s deep California heritage, such as Mesa Chalet or Woodland Retreat.

“We have a great product development team here,” Jackson said. “Shaw continues to invest in Tuftex, which enables us to develop new and innovative styles, such as LCL and patterned carpet—products you are seeing more and more of in the marketplace.”

Focus on unique commercial carpet

Atlas Carpet Mills, also based in Los Angeles, claims it has always endeavored to be at the forefront of new tufting technology. The mill, which operates as a separate brand within the Dixie Group portfolio, is a high-end manufacturer of commercial broadloom and modular carpet.

“Specifically, the focus has been on creating unique and differentiated patterned carpet,” said Mark Nestler, executive vice president. “Atlas seeks to differentiate itself from competition by offering the widest array of patterns and textures possible. Rather than focusing on one particular pattern-making technology, Atlas utilizes many different technologies.”

The mill’s range of true cut/loop carpets and sophisticated patterned, textured loops are its hallmark. “Within each of these categories Atlas has equipment that creates different looks and textures. Atlas has a product development team deep in experience and longevity with the company.”

From street art to the farmers market, the Mojave to the Pacific, California-inspired floor designs are diverse and vibrant. Looking ahead, West Coast mills say they will continue to stay true to their roots and develop more patterns and colors inspired by local culture and surroundings.

“It might be a photograph we took, a place we visited, or even just an article someone in the studio found that got our collective gears turning,” Bentley’s van der Kruik said. “Once we’ve found that launching point, we work to bring those ideas to life.”